AVmail: April 19, 2004

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Reader mail this week about getting lost with glass cockpits, avoiding blacked-out military aircraft, airport and aircraft security and more.

Garmin Keeping GPS Costly

I currently own a Garmin GPSMAP 196. Recently Garmin announced the introduction of the new GPSMAP 296, which is basically a color version of the 196 plus terrain info. Very neat looking.

Prior to the 296, Garmin's pricing practice was to limit what price its venders could "advertise" a product for. Regardless of the wholesale price Garmin received on every sale, it was up to each vender to decide how much profit margin they wanted to realize in the actual sale. As most people are aware, this was most apparent at events such as Oshkosh. However, when I started researching a possible vender for the 296, I was told that -- contrary to the established prior pricing practice -- Garmin is now demanding that venders sell at a set "selling" price, and if a vender violates that sale price, they risk Garmin pulling their products. If anyone was concerned how Garmin would use its market position after the acquisition of UPS, they need wait no longer. This new pricing policy is only designed to keep prices of GPSs as high as possible.

I am passing on this information as it will affect many pilots; and, I assume, if Garmin is successful, it will in the future apply this new pricing policy to all other Garmin products.

Mark H. Alexander

AVweb Replies

Garmin was contacted last week to confirm or deny this policy but has not yet responded.

Kevin Lane-Cummings
Features and AVmail Editor

Glass Cockpits = Less Position Awareness?

I recently bought a new plane with a glass cockpit. To my delight, it showed all the restricted areas, like Camp David (P-40) and MOAs and Class B airspace with different colored lines. The Washington Class B airspace happens to coincide with the ADIZ in most areas except south.

Imagine my surprise when I busted it while awaiting a flight following request from overworked controllers. Alhtough they were so overworked they could not answer my calls, they certainly reacted with alacrity when they let me blunder into the ADIZ. I dutifully called the Approach when I landed and they reported it to the FAA.

The FAA proposed a 30-day suspension. I showed them the ASRS report I filed. They said OK, they wouldn't take my certificate, but would keep this on my record. They said I did not have all the information available to me about the flight (I thought I did with the electronic displays that cost me so much). In what is the most glaring attempt to find something to accuse somebody with when there isn't much else to accuse them, they said I was guilty of reckless endangerment, because they would have been forced to shoot me down. Who is endangering whom here?

The good old FAA ... government employees who don't apparently have enough to do. Their slogan seems to fit: They're not happy until you're not happy. (I used to not believe this.)

Name withheld by request

Airlines Funding GA

Northwest Airlines funding general aviation? I think not. (NewsWire, Mar. 25; AVmail, Mar. 22) More likely it's the taxpayers funding all aviation. NWA might believe it has a case to point out where the airlines perhaps offset general aviation (I don't personally agree). However, I've got a similar argument to point out how general aviation is funding the airlines. Ever hear of Washington National airport? Prior to 9/11, National supported a significant general aviation business. The ramp at Signature was always just packed, with mostly business jets. But there were a number of piston aircraft. In fact my friend based his Baron in the Signature hangar at National. Well, post-9/11, no more general aviation. And what is worse, now the airlines are fighting over the extra slots afforded National due to the loss of all the general aviation traffic.

I don't know if NWA has any flights through DCA. [Editor's Note: Yes, they do.] But if they do, then please make the CEO of NWA aware of his "return on investment." And we all might thank the taxpayers for sending in their handy 1040 pledge forms and stop squabbling over a relatively good deal for the aviation community as a whole.

Mike Mercer

Black Ships In The Night

On a recent trip from Palm Springs to our home base at Three Rivers, Mich., in our Beechcraft Excalibur 800 Twin Bonanza, we were looking at up to 245 knots all the way from Albuquerque. Yahoo! What a ride! Sitting on top, west of Peoria, I checked in with Flight Watch to discover that the surface winds at my destination were running well over 25 knots directly from the south. Faced with a prevailing instrument approach being to the west and a night, 90-degree crosswind landing, it meant diverting to Kalamazoo, where they have a south runway. Either that or put down at Peoria have a good meal and leave the next morning.

I requested and was immediately issued an ILS Runway 31 landing clearance at Peoria. On final, while my mind was catching up with my body, I discovered that they were reporting winds peaking up to 27 knots out of the west-southwest. As I proceeded inbound toward the outer marker and had the airport approach lights in sight, I requested a clearance to circle and land on Runway 22. The tower operator came back with, "Runway 22 is now closed for night operations." Well, that was that, and I proceeded to test my crosswind landing skills on a rather interesting landing.

While on the ground-control frequency and taxiing into the FBO, I noticed a huge shadow go by off my right wing, then another right behind it. There were a couple of very dim lights spotted and my eyes finally focused in well enough to determine that they were C-130 military aircraft. Giving the ground controller a shout, I queried, "Was that a couple of C130s that just went by me?" He responded with, "You've got it ... that's why we couldn't give you Runway 22. They are shooting blacked-out takeoffs and landings."

I responded with a comment something like, "These military guys get all of the breaks. They get to land into the wind while this poor civilian has to reckon with a gusty crosswind landing. I think I should join the Air Force."

A strange voice immediately jumped on the frequency and said, "Sir! I don't think you would like that. Have you ever tried landing in the dark looking through two soda straws?"

Dick Ward

Dangerous Aircraft

All the "scare stories" about GA being a risk are nonsense (QOTW, Apr. 7). If terrorists load a ton of explosives into a Chevy Cavalier, it'll wallow like a pig, but still get where it's going. If they try the same with a Cessna 172, they won't get off the ground.

In my opinion, a bigger risk is UPS' switch from custom-designed trucks to Sprinters (which anyone can buy with no questions asked, and then paint brown). After all, a UPS truck is a large-capacity vehicle that can be left parked outside virtually any commercial building without arousing suspicion.

Robert Wolff

Airport Security

In a recent L.A. Times there was a ridiculous article on small airport security. In particular, consider the closing comment:

"You put something in the air that holds any amount of fuel, it can be dangerous," said Susan Farley, legislative director of Regional Aviation Partners, a nonprofit lobbying group representing small commercial airports and aviation businesses in 28 states. "You don't want the worst to happen. Better to be safe than sorry."

Frank Natoli

Cirrus Over Florida

Your article today about the two Cirrus parachute deployments is interesting (NewsWire, Apr. 13), but the Florida crash seems to be, in my opinion, gross pilot error and I disagree with the pilot's decision to pull the chute.

There are backup primary instruments on the panel below the main Garmin 1000 display -- artificial horizon, a glideslope/localizer, and compass -- and the pilot should have navigated by those primary instruments and flown out of the problem rather than having risked his life and possibly those on the ground (which he couldn't see) and destroying his aircraft.

The article seemed to applaud his actions -- this sends a wrong message. I'd like to see you comment on the reality of the item, and make the point that a parachute is for catastrophic failures, not just when the elaborate panel hiccups and fails.

Patric Barry

AVweb Replies

It's premature to speculate on all the details of that incident until the investigation concludes. Also, Cirrus has confirmed that this SR22 had conventional instruments, not the Garmin 1000 PFD. But as we've said before, at least they had a choice to use the parachute. Pilots flying planes without parachutes don't have a choice at all, and I bet some wish they did.

Kevin Lane-Cummings
Features and AVmail Editor

Teterboro Airport

I am in and out of TEB airport every week. It seems to me that there are always delays flying out of the airport. My question to you is if this is one of the busiest -- if not the busiest -- GA airport in the U.S.? My other question is why does it seem that they are always changing controllers? You can tell by the tone of the controllers' voices that they are new and you can also tell that a lot of training goes on in the tower. Is there a high turnover rate at the tower? Why don't veteran controllers stay at TEB? With so many flights in and out of the airport you would think that the FAA would have long-time controllers in the tower. The airport is very important to GA and some of the world's richest companies.

Name withheld by request